Lead investigator in Murdaugh murder case testifies to inconsistencies with defendant’s timeline, defense alleges incomplete investigation

Day 18: Judge decides not to include roadside shooting evidence.
Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 9:02 AM EST

WALTERBORO, S.C. – (WIS) In a video never before seen publicly, on Wednesday jurors in the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial saw the disgraced attorney’s third interview with law enforcement, during which investigators identified inconsistencies with his timeline on the day of the murders.

The interview took place on August 11, 2021, at the SLED interrogation room in Walterboro.

The timing of the interview came as many of the details that have emerged since, and have been introduced as evidence in the murder case, were not yet known.

It was conducted by SLED agent David Owen, the lead investigator on the case. He interviewed Murdaugh two other times after his wife and son were killed.

The third interview got off to a testy start, with Alex’s friend and defense attorney Cory Fleming saying he was uncomfortable with Owen asking questions of Alex as a suspect.

Throughout the interview, Alex was confronted with multiple inconsistencies that the state has already laid out in previous testimony: that his voice was heard at the kennels even though he was adamant that he was never there that night, and that a Snapchat video taken by his son Paul indicated he had changed clothes.

During the interview, Owen asks Murdaugh about a Snapchat video taken by Paul just over an hour before prosecutors say he was murdered, which shows Alex in different clothes than when law enforcement arrived.

Murdaugh appears confused.

Owen then asks when Murdaugh changed clothes.

“I’m not sure,” Murdaugh said. “It would’ve been –”

“Before dinner or after dinner?” Owen asked.

“No, it would’ve been, what time of day was that? I would’ve thought I had already changed?” Murdaugh said.

He later tells Owen, “I guess I changed when I got back to the house.”

Later, when told by Owen that Rogan Gibson, a friend of Paul’s, identified Murdaugh’s voice in the background of a phone call at the kennels around 9 P.M. the evening of the slayings, when Murdaugh claims to have been taking a nap, he again denies being at the kennels at all.

“Not if my times are right,” Murdaugh said.

Murdaugh said he has no idea whose voice that could have been, but Owen pushes back.

“Rogan’s been around your family for pretty much all of his life,” Owen said.

“Absolutely,” Murdaugh replied.

“And he recognizes your voice, and you have a distinct voice,” Owen said.

Owen also asked why Murdaugh didn’t check on Maggie at the kennels when he left to see his mother, despite calling Maggie several times after 9 P.M.

Alex said he was not expecting Maggie that night.

But that has since been refuted by Maggie’s sister Marian Proctor, who testified Tuesday that Alex told Maggie to come to the family hunting property at Moselle, as his father was in the hospital.

Murdaugh told Owen he was at his mother’s house for 45 minutes to an hour. That timing has been refuted by caretaker Shelley Smith, who said Murdaugh was only at the Almeda home for 20 minutes.

Smith also testified Murdaugh later told her to tell anyone who asks that he was there for 30-40 minutes on June 7, 2021.

She became emotional on the witness stand as she said Murdaugh’s version of the timeline was not accurate.

Owen told Murdaugh investigators knew Paul and Maggie were killed with family weapons and asked Alex for an accounting of the missing weapons, something Owen testified he still has not received.

When pressed, Alex asked, “Paul’s gun was used?” referring to the .300 Blackout rifle that killed Maggie

“Yes, and it’s missing,” Owen replied.

That missing .300 Blackout rifle has not been found.

Owen testified Maggie’s blood was found on the shotgun Alex was holding when law enforcement arrived on June 7. Ballistics testing was unable to confirm whether the shotgun Murdaugh was holding was used to shoot Paul, however.

The interview ends with an exchange where Owen directly asked Murdaugh whether he murdered his wife and son. Appearing surprised, he denied killing them, and said he does not know who did.

“So does that mean that I am a suspect?” Murdaugh asked.

“You are still in, like I told Cory earlier, you are still in this,” Owen replied. “With everything that we’ve talked about, with the family guns, the ammunition, nobody else’s DNA, I have to put my beliefs aside and go with the facts.”

Owen testified that the inconsistencies were significant developments in the investigation, and narrowed the focus on Murdaugh as a suspect.

“Because it wasn’t one inconsistency, it was several inconsistences over a period of time that were repeated,” he said.

He mentioned Murdaugh’s shifting timeline on how long he was at his mother’s home on June 7, how long he said he was riding with Paul on the property that day, and his apparent coaching of his housekeeper Blanca Simpson about his shirt in Paul’s Snapchat video.

Simpson testified that Murdaugh, concerned about SLED’s questions regarding the Snapchat video during the interrogation, pressured her in September 2021 to say that he was wearing a different shirt than he wore in the video.

Owen said Simpson reached out to investigators a few months later to discuss that conversation, and her concerns.

Simpson testified she never saw the blue Columbia shirt, khakis and dress shoes seen in the video after the murders.

Investigators also said they never recovered those clothes. The fact that the state never recovered those clothes was a key point Murdaugh defense attorney Jim Griffin sought to highlight during his cross examination of Owen.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, pointed out that if Murdaugh wanted to clear himself of wrongdoing, he could have offered those clothes to investigators at any point.

On Owen’s cross-examination, Griffin asserted that law enforcement zeroed in on Murdaugh as a suspect from the get-go, and missed opportunities to exclude him.

He also sought to show gaps in the SLED investigation.

Griffin mentioned the fact that Murdaugh’s mother’s house in Almeda was not searched until months after the killings, and investigators never recovered the clothes Murdaugh was wearing in the Snapchat video, or the murder weapons.

Defense’s cross-examination further established that Owen was mistaken when he told the state grand jury about blood spatter on the white t-shirt Murdaugh was wearing the night of the murders, and about several

The defense went so far as to suggest Owen lied to the grand jury, in the effort to secure murder indictments.

However, prosecutors have not made blood spatter an issue in the trial, and in redirect, prosecutors got Owen to testify that other evidence, and not blood spatter, was pivotal toward securing the indictments.

While Griffin showed evidence of perhaps an incomplete investigation, he did not seek to refute his client’s inconsistencies.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Judge Clifton Newman reversed an earlier ruling and said that evidence of the September 2021 roadside shooting, where Murdaugh was shot in an alleged insurance fraud scheme, is admissible.

Newman said defense opened the door to this by asking Owen about the relationship between Murdaugh and Curtis “Eddie” Smith.

On Wednesday morning, Newman ruled to exclude this evidence, calling it a “bridge too far” and saying it did not meet the “logical relevancy test.” He did say that circumstances could change, however.

The prosecution said they hoped to have their case wrapped up by Wednesday, but their case will continue Thursday and possibly even through the end of the week.